Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC)


Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is a chromatographic technique that is useful for separating organic compounds. Because of the simplicity and rapidity of TLC, it is often used to monitor the progress of organic reactions and to check the purity of products.


Thin-layer chromatography consists of a stationary phase immobilized on a glass or plastic plate and a solvent. The sample, either liquid or dissolved in a volatile solvent, is deposited as a spot on the stationary phase. The constituents of a sample can be identified by simultaneously running standards with the unknown. One edge of the plate is then placed in a solvent reservoir and the solvent moves up the plate by capillary action. When the solvent front reaches the other edge of the stationary phase, the plate is removed from the solvent reservoir. The separated spots are visualized with ultraviolet light or by placing the plate in iodine vapor. The different components in the mixture move up the plate at different rates due to differences in their partioning behavior between the mobile liquid phase and the stationary phase.

Movie demonstration of a thin-layer chromatographic separation

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Copyright © 1996 by Brian M. Tissue

updated 2/25/96